Essex winner Spotsgone is the morning-line favorite for the Hanshin Cup.

Essex winner Spotsgone is the morning-line favorite for the Hanshin Cup.

Sunny Taylor / Coady Photography

Spotsgone Tries to Repeat in Hanshin Cup

Eight are entered in the one-mile Polytrack event May 24 at Arlington Park.

Oh what a difference a year can make.

This time one year ago, Robert Yagos’ Spotsgone was sent off at odds of 81-1 in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III). In the 2008 edition – to be held May 24 at Arlington Park – the son of Bright Launch was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Of course, the drastic change in odds may have a little something to do with Spotsgone lighting up the toteboard with a $165 mutual in last year’s edition.

Under the handling Earlie Fires, Arlington’s all-time leading rider, Spotsgone broke on top in the 2007 Hanshin Cup and never relinquished the lead, taking the one-mile Polytrack event by 2 1/4 lengths for his first graded stakes score. Seven older horses will attempt to prevent the Kentucky-bred from defending his title, including Fort Prado and Throng, a pair of challengers who were in the field last year but failed to hit the board.

Since his upset last year, Spotsgone has recorded a 3-2-0 mark from 10 starts. Included in those were consecutive victories to begin his 5-year-old campaign – both at Oaklawn Park. The latter was a wire-to-wire score in the 1 1/16-mile Essex Handicap Feb. 9. Most recently, the bay horse was carried out at the start of the May 3 Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) on Kentucky Derby day, causing him to finish last in a field of eight.

Trained by William “Jinks” Fires, Spotsgone is out of the Mr. Leader mare Double’s Lass. He was bred by Hurstland Farms and has earned $458,809 in 33 career starts. Earlie Fires will get the call on the 118-pound highweight, who has three wins in four lifetime starts at Arlington.

Barry Butzow’s Lovango could be the one who gives Spotsgone a run for his money this time. The Capote colt has been in good form since taking the Forward Pass Stakes by eight lengths on the Arlington Polytrack last August. The McLean Robertson trainee is 1-0-2 from three starts in his 4-year-old season, most recently missing by only 1 1/2 lengths April 10 in the Count Fleet Spring Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn.

Lovango, who has been on the board in 10 of 14 career starts, will get Rene Douglas, the meet’s leading rider.

Also in good form and with an affinity for the Arlington surface is Coragil Cat. The 4-year-old son of Forest Wildcat is coming off a 2 1/4-length triumph in the one-mile Timeless Native Stakes May 3 at Arlington, where he powered down the stretch under Diego Sanchez to set the new track record in 1:33.55.

Trained by Greg Geier, Coragil Cat has found the winner’s circle in his last two starts, as he also won an allowance event March 8 at Fair Grounds. Until then the winner’s circle had been a foreign land to the Kentucky-bred, who went winless in 17 starts before finding recent success. He is a homebred of Jim Tafel, owner of 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Street Sense .

Throng was second in the Timeless Native. The 5-year-old Silver Deputy colt won the 1 1/8-mile Dr. Fager Stakes at Arlington last year. He is trained by Todd Pletcher.

$100,000 Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 5:08 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 Mile (Polytrack)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Stonehouse (IL), 115, James Graham
2. Spotsgone (KY), 118, Earlie Fires
3. Fort Prado (IL), 116, Eusebio Razo, Jr.
4. Steve's Double (MD), 117, Ramsey Zimmerman
5. Throng (KY), 117, Jesse M. Campbell
6. Coragil Cat (KY), 115, Diego Sanchez
7. Morada Key (KY), 114, Larry J. Sterling, Jr.
8. Lovango (KY), 116, Rene R. Douglas